Pharmacist flu treatment backed in Florida Senate

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Senate committee Thursday approved a controversial proposal that would allow pharmacists to test and treat people for influenza.

The vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee sends the bill (SB 714) to the full Senate.

The issue has drawn opposition from physicians’ groups, who contend that pharmacists do not have adequate training to test and treat patients for the flu.

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said he sees the proposal as a risk and raised questions about issues such as whether pharmacists would make proper diagnoses if patients have serious medical conditions. But bill sponsor Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, said patients might have to wait days to get appointments with doctors or wait in line at emergency rooms or urgent-care centers to be treated for the flu. Hutson said the goal is to “make sure people can feel better and get the care they need as quickly as possible.”

Supporters also have pushed back against the argument that pharmacists would not be adequately trained.

“In pharmacy, we are prepared and ready for this,” Michael Jackson, executive vice president and CEO of the Florida Pharmacy Association, told the Senate committee.

The House has a broader version of the proposal (HB 389), which would also allow pharmacists to test and treat patients for conditions such as streptococcus, lice and certain skin conditions.